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Houston Staff

Lubabah Abdullah

Executive Director, Houston

Lubabah Abdullah joined Tahirih in 2021 as the Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston Office. As a long-time attorney, Ms. Abdullah worked at Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, the Julian Center, one of the first family justice centers in the United States, and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana as Executive Director. She has managed and established multiple legal programs, including a modest-means legal clinic, a pro-bono protection order program which ensured that every woman who came to the courthouse for a protection order had an attorney to advocate alongside her. She started her own law practice in 2009 and focused primarily on serving families, through family law, estate planning, and family-based immigration. Much of her work in the nonprofit sector, as well as her own personal law practice, has focused on creating a holistic approach to client’s problems. She firmly believes that in helping a family address not just their legal problems, she is able to provide them the tools necessary to heal themselves, their children, their families, and their communities making us all stronger and more resilient.

From her 20+ years of experience at nonprofits, she is committed to building consensus, rooted in values of transparent decision-making and communication.  She has a strong commitment to education, outreach, and advocacy, and long history of personal and professional commitment to the immigrant community. She has a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri and speaks fluent Arabic and conversational Spanish. She sits on the board of the Islamic Society of North America and steering committee of Houston Faith Leaders Coalition. She served as a Board member of Al-Salam Day School for seven years and founded a new campus of the school. She is also an advisor to the Peaceful Families Project, which is devoted to preventing domestic violence, with a particular focus on Muslim families of diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. She is a member of the Houston Muslim Bar Association and Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Missouri Bar Association, and the Texas Bar Association.

One of the things that I love about Tahirih is the unique interdisciplinary approach to direct services, including legal and social services, policy advocacy, training and education. In the fight to end gender-based violence, we must help address all areas of a client’s needs because they are the experts for their own life journey.

Education: Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate, the University of Missouri

Hometown: Chicago/St. Louis

Liz Shields

Deputy Director, Houston

Liz Shields joined Tahirih in 2017 as the Deputy Director of the Houston office. As Deputy Director, she supervises programmatic and operational staff, supports strategic growth, oversees grant management and ensures programmatic management embodies Tahirih’s overarching values.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Liz served as the Houston Managing Attorney at Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) from 2015-2017 after serving the same role in KIND’s Baltimore office from 2009-2015. Liz joined KIND at the birth of the organization. In addition to overseeing daily management of the office and maintaining a caseload, she substantially grew both the Baltimore and Houston offices, focusing on identifying key partners, collaborating with stakeholders, developing pro bono networks and creating collaborations.

Liz has a long history of pro bono legal representation pre-dating her time with Tahirih and KIND. She also worked within the Community Services Team of Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, D.C., where she worked collaboratively to provide pro bono immigration representation, focusing mainly on refugee resettlement and complex asylum claims.

“I am inspired and humbled by Tahirih’s clients. The women and children we serve each have their own voice and story, but possess a shared strength to become their own advocates. Being a part of an organization that not only supports and nurtures women fleeing violence, but also recognizes the importance of personal empowerment, is an honor.”

Liz graduated with honors from Rice University where she majored in the study of women and gender. She then attended the University of Houston School of Law, where she spent two semesters working in the Immigration Law Clinic.

Alondra Andrade

Community Engagement Coordinator

Alondra joined Tahirih in 2020. As the Community Engagement Coordinator, Alondra is responsible for supporting the advancement of local and regional strategies that combat the barriers immigrant survivors face to obtain safety and dignity under the law. Prior to joining Tahirih, she volunteered with Tahirih Houston as a social services volunteer. She has also volunteered with the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights as a child advocate where she ensured that all decisions made on behalf of an immigrant child takes into consideration the child’s best interest. Additionally, she has volunteered as a translator at Casa Juan Diego clinic in Houston. Alondra also worked as the temporary Office Administrator at the Tahirih Houston office in 2019.

“The strength of Tahirih clients is electrifying and I am grateful to be able to join them in their fight for justice. As the daughter of immigrants I feel extremely connected to Houston’s resilient community members and the hardships that accompany being an immigrant in this country.”

Education: University of St. Thomas, BA
Languages: Spanish
Hometown: Houston, Texas

Corina Azpurua

Legal Advocate

Corina Azpurua joined Tahirih in 2018. As a Legal Advocate in the Houston office, Corina conducts screenings for potential clients, prepares immigration forms and filings, assembles application packets; schedules and meets with clients and provide administrative support. Prior to joining Tahirih, Corina worked with Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative as the Program Coordinator.

I am inspired by the courage and resilience of every client we serve and by the amazing team working to empower women and children. I am honored to be part of a great mission.

Education: Bachelor of Law, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas Venezuela

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela

Sofia Barbosa

Weil Legal Innovator and Health Justice Coordinator

Sofia Barbosa joined Tahirih in 2021. As Weil Legal Innovator in the Houston office, Sofia serves as Health Justice Coordinator. Within this role, she supports the Policy & Advocacy team while working to increase health access for immigrant survivors and their families in the Houston area. Prior to joining Tahirih, Sofia served as a volunteer in emergency rooms and inpatient units of public hospital centers providing care to underserved communities in New York City and Mexico City. She also spent four years working as a research assistant in a biomedical engineering laboratory at Columbia University where she spearheaded an NIH R21-funded study within the field of orthopedics. Through her research, Sofia is second author on a paper in Biotechnology and Bioengineering (2020) and she has co-authored six abstract submissions to national and international conferences. Additionally, Sofia spent her senior year developing a gunshot wound treatment to be used in the event of a shooting, earning her team second place in their biomedical engineering class. Following her time at Tahirih, Sofia will pursue her JD at the University of Pennsylvania as a Dean’s Fellow.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission to serve brave immigrant survivors through innovative, empowering, and survivor-centered advocacy and legal support.”

Education: Columbia University, MS & BS

Languages: Spanish and French

Hometown: New York, NY

Matthew Bratek

Legal Advocate

Matthew Bratek joined Tahirih in 2021. As a Legal Advocate in the Houston office, Matthew conducts pre-screens and intakes with potential clients, provides legal advocacy, organizes legal clinics, and provides administrative support to the legal team. Prior to joining Tahirih, Matthew served as a Legal Assistant with the Karnes Pro-Bono Project at RAICES helping to represent and defend asylum seekers subject to Expedited Removal. Before RAICES, Matthew served as an AmeriCorps member with Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth providing Cultural Orientation and ESL to newly arrived refugees and asylees. While attending the University of North Texas as an undergrad, Matthew published a thesis entitled “Intervention and Protection: Impact of Humanitarian Intervention on Human Rights Violations.” Matthew lived and studied in Granada, Spain while attending university. Matthew has visited 8 countries including Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Morocco, and hopes to grow that list!

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s work to combat violence and abuse against women and children while providing them a platform to access justice and have their voices heard. It is an honor to advocate for the rights of our clients while working for an organization that not only empowers but recognizes each individual as an expert in their own journey.”

Education: University of North Texas, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Jennefer Canales-Pelaez

Immigration Law Attorney

Jennefer joined Tahirih in 2019. As an Immigration Staff Attorney in the Houston office, Jennefer represents individuals who have suffered from gender-based violence before USCIS and EOIR. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jennefer worked at a private immigration firm and at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) located in Los Angeles, California. Jennefer has advocated for immigrant rights from the age of 11 when she advocated for her relative’s immigration status to the President at the time, George W. Bush. Although her relative was ultimately deported, she learned that emotions alone aren’t enough, and you need legal authority behind your word. Since then, Jennefer has dedicated her life and career to ensuring that no one else experiences the trauma she felt.

Jennefer is an Aspen Ideas Scholar and KIPP Accelerator Scholar.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to providing client-centered representation that serves to empower each individual we advocate for.”

Education: Southwestern Law School, JD; Occidental College, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Ana Teresa Castellano

Operations Associate

Ana Castellano joined Tahirih in 2016. As the Operations Associate, Ana provides critical operational and administrative support to the Houston office, including day-to-day office administration, development, and financial duties. She also supports our client services and conducts preliminary screenings of service seekers, assists with client referrals, and supports our volunteer program. Before moving to the United States, she served as the office administrator at a law firm in Lima, Peru.

“Injustice occurs in many places in the world, and I am honored to be part of an organization that empowers women and children to overcome past trauma and access the justice they have previously been denied.”

Education: Escuela de Post Grado Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, MA; Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Lima, Peru

Katharina Dechert

Legal Advocate

Katharina Dechert joined Tahirih in 2016. As a Legal Advocate, Katharina conducts pre-screens and intakes with potential clients, provides legal advocacy, organizes legal clinics, and provides administrative support to the legal team. She also assists the Managing Attorney with administering Tahirih’s Pro Bono Network. Prior to Tahirih, Katharina was the Policy Advocacy and Leadership Associate for Asylum Access Ecuador. Before that, she was an intern at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands and was a Human Rights Accompanier in Guatemala. Katharina has lived in Australia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and in the Netherlands.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to empowering immigrant women and girls to reject violence and seek justice so that they can freely rebuild their lives safe from persecution.”

Education: University of Queensland, MIS; Wellesley College, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Laramie, WY

Samantha Del Bosque

Senior Staff Attorney

Samantha Del Bosque joined Tahirih in 2012. As a Senior Staff Attorney in Houston, Samantha represents women and girls in front of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Court. An active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she currently serves on the National Refugee and Asylum Committee and serves as the Asylum Office Liaison for the Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico Chapter. Samantha is admitted to practice in Federal Court (Southern District of Texas). Prior to Tahirih, she worked as a Staff Attorney at Catholic Charities and a Student Attorney at the Immigration Clinic at University of Houston Law Center. She is recipient of the University of Houston Law Center’s Dean’s Scholarship, Public Interest Fellowship, Equal Justice Works Summercorps Fellowship, Buick Wynne Environmental Law Scholarship, and Joseph Hensley Memorial Award. Before Law School, Samantha taught Spanish to disadvantaged and at risk children in the Houston area. Samantha was born and raised in France and has traveled extensively.

“Empowering women to live their lives as they choose. Growing up in a western country, I was privileged enough to dream of what and whom I wanted to be, and more importantly, I was able to follow that dream. This is not the case for the vast majority of women in the rest of the world. Working at Tahirih helps redress this injustice.”

Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BA; Universite de Bordeaux, France

Languages: French and Spanish

Hometown: Bordeaux, France

Javier Arturo Dominguez

Children’s Attorney

Javier Dominguez joined Tahirih in 2014. As Children’s Attorney, Javier represents girls and immigrant children in family courts, juvenile law courts, state courts, and immigration court. His legal representation includes filing applications for gender-based asylum, protecting survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other violent crimes, and ensuring that children qualify for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to Tahirih, he worked as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities. Before law school, he was the Legislative Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens. Javier was born and raised in the transnational border region of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He studied abroad in both Spain and Brazil.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s legacy in transforming the lives of countless survivors of abuse and injustice. It has always been my passion to help immigrants and make a difference in their lives. I am thrilled to be working for this prestigious organization and helping to extend its legacy to promote social justice.”

Education: University of Seattle Law School, JD; Brown University, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: El Paso, TX

Guadalupe Fernández

Policy and Advocacy Manager

Guadalupe Fernández joined Tahirih in 2015. As the Houston Office’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, she is responsible for leading the development and advancement of Tahirih’s local and state-wide advocacy projects and campaigns to transform the policies and practices that impact immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Guadalupe is committed to addressing interpersonal violence within the larger context of institutionalized violence and oppression that impacts our communities by building collective power among survivors, advocates, and allies.

Guadalupe previously served as a Fully Accredited Representative through the Department of Justice and is allowed to practice before both DHS and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which includes the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. She joined Tahirih as the Children’s Legal Advocate, where she was responsible for ensuring that immigrant child survivors of violence and their families were empowered to navigate the complicated legal and social systems. Guadalupe came to Tahirih with a wealth of experience working with migrant children and families. Prior to Tahirih, she worked at Catholic Charities Houston as the Lead Legal Caseworker for the Child Advocacy and Legal Services Program. In Washington DC, Guadalupe was on the steering committee of the DC Detention Visitation Network and completed internships at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). Currently, Guadalupe serves on the Public Policy Committee for the Texas Council of Family Violence, the Immigration and Racial Equity taskforces of the Texas Family Leadership Council, the Harris Co. Housing Stability Taskforce, and on the Community Working Group advising the Monitor Team for the O’Donnell Consent Decree. She is a graduate of the Advocacy Learning Center hosted by Praxis International and Camp Wellstone.

Guadalupe is the proud daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college graduate from Georgetown University.

“I am inspired by our migrant community and the resiliency of the survivors we serve.”

Education: Georgetown University, BSFS

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Blue Island, IL


Elizabeth Hasse

Staff Attorney

Elizabeth Hasse joined Tahirih in 2014. As a Staff Attorney, Elizabeth represents women and girls in front of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Prior to working at Tahirih, Elizabeth interned at Tahirih’s DC office and at KIND in Boston. She also worked as a student attorney at Boston University School of Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic. Prior to law school, Elizabeth worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jinotega, Nicaragua. In college, she studied abroad in Santiago, Chile, Oaxaca, Mexico, and Cusco, Peru.

“My clients are the some of the strongest women and girls that I have met. By the time they get to us, they have already done the hard part by fleeing violence and traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to get here. I am honored to help them seek protection.”

Education: Boston University School of Law, JD; University of Notre Dame, BA

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Iron Mountain, MI

Jessica Howton

Managing Attorney

Jessica Howton joined Tahirih in 2011. As Managing Attorney for Tahirih Houston, she provides legal representation to clients, particularly minors, mentors pro bono attorneys, oversees the Houston pro bono program, and manages the Houston legal team and its program. Prior to joining Tahirih, Jessica was an intern at Kids in Need of Defense during law school, where she represented unaccompanied migrant children. After law school, she earned a Notre Dame fellowship to serve at Tahirih as a staff attorney. Jessica studied abroad in France, London, and Cameroon. In Cameroon, she worked in protection office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and conducted evaluation missions along the Nigerian border. Jessica currently serves as the co-chair of the Texas Immigration Task Force, where she leads quarterly meetings and presentations on current trends and updates in immigration law.

“I am consistently inspired by my co-workers and the amazing women and children that we serve. It is an honor to work with our clients and help to provide them with the support and strength they deserve as they courageously stand up for their right to live in safety and have access to justice. Our clients are the most resilient women and children I have ever met and the strength, hope, and achievement they show as they fight for their basic human rights is truly amazing.”

Education: Notre Dame Law School, JD; Connecticut College, BA

Languages: Spanish and French

Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia

Amanda Hua

Development Associate

Amanda Hua joined Tahirih in 2021. As a Development Associate in the Houston office, she supports Tahirih’s mission and growth by fostering relationships with donors, increasing the donor base, and tracking the progress of fundraising goals. Prior to joining Tahirih, Amanda interned with the University of Texas Center for Community Engagement, where she helped to connect the resources of the university to meet community priorities. She also volunteered with Casa Marianella, an emergency shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees in Austin, Texas. During college, Amanda studied abroad in Germany.

“I am beyond honored to work with an organization like Tahirih that constantly and consistently uplifts women and children, recognizing their power and resilience while empowering them.”

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Education: University of Texas at Austin, BA

Languages: Chinese, German

Natalie Matuszczak

Social Services Associate

Natalie Matuszczak joined Tahirih in 2020. As Social Services Associate, Natalie provides case management and brief social services support to service seekers. To help women and girls rebuild their lives free from violence, she assists them with safety planning and connects them with food, medical care, mental health, housing/shelter, and education through referrals.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Natalie was a Program Coordinator at YMCA International Services where she managed programs in the areas of citizenship education, microenterprise development and disaster recovery for newcomer immigrant communities. Natalie has also studied abroad in Grenoble, France, and Reykjavik, Iceland, and spent a school year teaching English to primary school students in northern France.

Women and girls are particularly vulnerable immigrants because of longstanding social and cultural inequities that exist around the world. I am honored to contribute to Tahirih’s mission of empowering immigrant women and find inspiration in our clients’ courage and determination to live free from violence.

Languages: French; basic Polish and Spanish

Education: University of Michigan, BA

Hometown: Gulfport, Mississippi


Karla Perez

Equal Justice Works Fellow

Karla Perez joined Tahirih in 2018. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Karla represents immigrant women and girls who are survivors of gender-based violence in underserved communities surrounding the greater Houston region. Prior to joining Tahirih, Karla completed internships with the Immigration and Citizenship Program at Baker Ripley, Tahirih Justice Center, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

I am inspired by Tahirih’s work to provide holistic legal services to immigrant women and girls amidst constant changes in local and national policy for the immigrant community. As an immigrant myself, I am incredibly proud to serve our courageous and resilient clients.

Education: University of Houston Law Center, JD; University of Houston, BBA

Language: Spanish

Hometown: Mexico City


Tiffany Ross

Social Services Program Manager

Tiffany Ross joined Tahirih in 2020. As the Social Service Program Manager, Tiffany overseas and supports clients by connecting them to various social services resources to meet their basic needs of housing, medical care, and mental health services. Prior to joining Tahirih, Tiffany worked with women coming out of the criminal justice system by connecting them to resources and supportive services. Prior to that, she worked within the mental health field educating the community on mental illnesses, women’s mental health, stigma, and connected providers and community members to mental health services.

In 2017, Tiffany was recognized by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and received the Volunteer Service Award.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s mission of uplifting and empowering girls and women to not only survive but thrive in finding their voice to educate and advocate for equality.”

Education: University of Texas-Austin, MSSW

Hometown: Houston, TX